Suspected Islamic Extremists in Libya Abduct 13 Egyptian Christians

Third attack on area Christians in two weeks.

Libya has become lawless since anti-Gaddafi fighters of the National Transitional Council took power in 2011. (Wikipedia)

Libya has become lawless since anti-Gaddafi fighters of the National Transitional Council took power in 2011. (Wikipedia)

ISTANBUL, Turkey (Morning Star News) – In the most recent of a series of kidnappings and killings targeting Egyptian Christians in Libya, 13 Christians in the country were abducted on Saturday (Jan. 3). A group of armed men thought to be members of an Islamic militia group burst into a housing complex in Sirte, Libya at about 2 a.m. Saturday and abducted the 13 men.

Though there were conflicting reports of how the 13 were chosen, they were all Christians. Some eyewitnesses said the kidnappers came into the complex and asked for the Christians in the building by name, according to Mina Thabet, a noted Egyptian human rights activist and researcher at the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms. In other accounts, the kidnappers went through the housing complex asking people’s names and their religion as they went along.

All the victims in the most recent kidnapping were closely related and came from Samalout in Minya Governorate, Egypt. Naseem, a relative of the missing men who lives in Samalout and did not want to be further identified, said the family and Christian community in Samalout are crushed.

“The feeling of depression and worry and sadness is indescribable,” he said. “But if it’s God’s will for them to be martyrs for the name of Christ, like the apostles, and a witness to the kidnappers, we pray God will provide grace, peace and acceptance of His will.”

Saturday’s kidnapping was the third act of violence against Egyptian Christians in Sirte, a city on the coast of Libya, in less than two weeks. On Dec. 30, seven Christians were kidnapped while driving back to Egypt on the coastal road that passes through Sirte. On Dec. 23, a Coptic doctor and his wife were shot to death at their home in the city.

Their teenage daughter was kidnapped from the home. Her body was found in the desert west of the city two days later. Also, earlier in the year on Aug. 25, four Christians from Egypt were kidnapped while driving home. The men still have not been heard from.

Since the 2011 Libyan civil war, Sirte has become known as a lawless area ruled by Islamic militia groups. Thabet, who has been in close contact with victims’ families, said that religious motives were clearly evident.

“It is obvious they are being targeted for their faith,” he said. “Why are all the kidnappers asking them what their religion is before they kidnap them?”

Thabet said that the identity of the kidnappers and the killers isn’t known, but the group most suspected is Ansar Al-Sharia, an Al Qaeda-affiliated group. Libyan Minister of Interior Amer Al-Sanky has stated in Libyan media that he thinks Ansar Al-Sharia is responsible for the kidnappings and the killings.

Regardless of who is responsible, Thabet said he can find no logic that explains the killings.

“I don’t have an explanation why they would do that,” he said, expanding the question to other areas of Islamist terror. “Why would DASH [the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS] kill Christians?” he said. “Why would extremists in Egypt force their way into a church, kill the Christians and then burn it down? Ask the extremists.”

No one has claimed responsibility for any of the incidents. The location of the victims, or even whether they are still alive, remains unknown. The kidnappers have not contacted anyone with any ransom demands.

Kidnapped in the latest incident were Maged Soliman Shehata, Abanoub Ayad Attyia, Yousef Shoukry Younan, Hani Abd Al-Messeih Saleeb, Kerolos Boushra Fawzy, Milad Makeen Zaky, Makram Yousef Tawadrous, Samuel Astafanous Kamel, Bishoy Ashtafouns Kamel, Mina Fayez Aziz, Malak Ibrahim Taniot, Gerges Milad Taniot and Bishoy Adel.

The names of the seven men kidnapped on Dec. 30 are Samuel Alahm Welson, Ezat Boushra Naseef, Louka Nagaty, Essam Badar Sameer, Malak Farag Abraam, Sameh Salah Farouk and Gaber Mouneer Adly.

In Tanat, Egypt, a funeral service was held on Dec. 30 for three Egyptians killed in Sirte. Magdy Sobhy Tawfiq, his wife Sahar Talaat Rizq and their 14-year-old daughter, Katrine Magdy Sobhy, were shot to death on Dec. 23.

A group of masked, armed men broke into Tawfiq’s house in Sirte and tied up Tawfiq, according to the Watani Weekly newspaper. Rizq and Tawfiq were shot, Katrine was kidnapped and the couple’s two younger girls, Carla and Carol, 10 and 9, were left behind. No money or valuables were taken from the home. The body of the teenage girl was later found in the desert. She had been shot three times.

Tawfiq was a doctor who had been living in Sirte since 2001, according to Watani. The family wanted to leave as Islamic extremist violence and general lawlessness increased after the ousting and killing of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, but they were unable as Tawfiq’s employer, according to Watani, withheld Tawfiq’s passport. Area Islamists had threatened Katrine with demands that she wear a veil.

The relative of some of the latest kidnapping victims, Naseem in Minya Governorate, said the men had been in Sirte from between six months and two years. They all left Egypt for the promise of better opportunities in Libya.

“The economic situation here is very bad,” he said. “We all just have high school diplomas. But there are no jobs available, and we all have responsibilities, families to take care of. Some wanted to save up to get married, and Libya had its doors open with job opportunities, and that’s why they decided to go.”

All the men were working in construction. Naseem said they tried to return several times, but there were no flights from Libya to Egypt, and the roads were too dangerous for travel. Now, the family waits for any word about the safety or death of their loved ones.

“We hold our prayers up to God, because he is the only one who can help us,” Naseem said. “But if there is anyone one in authority, anywhere that can help bring these people back or protect them, please don’t hesitate to do that.”  

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